By Hannah Ross
As we transition to a new EBoard for the upcoming semester, the outgoing EBoard wanted to reflect on their final thoughts from the year. Here’s what Channing had to say.
- How did you first join PRSSA?
I first joined PRSSA right at the beginning of sophomore year. I was looking to get more experience professionally on campus. Freshman year, I was focused on joining more social student organizations and so sophomore year I was looking for something that would give me an opportunity to connect socially and actually start moving towards developing my career. And I think that was the right time for me to do it.
- What made you want to run for EBoard?
When I joined my sophomore year, the EBoard that year was extremely encouraging of us helping them. Not even a month after joining I started helping with the publicity director at the time, Evan. He told us he needed help with all of the social media accounts, so I started helping him schedule tweets and plan social media posts so I got to frequently stay connected with him and the rest of the Eboard. I loved how friendly that EBoard was and how much they seemed to be enjoying their roles. I attended a couple EBoard meetings towards the end of the year and again, they just seemed like they were enjoying it so much and getting so much leadership experience.
Seeing them really enjoying it made me want that experience too. So I talked to Evan about what positions were available. I considered running for publicity but then I ultimately decided to run for D & I director because I liked how the position was kind of new, there was a lot of flexibility with it, and I thought it was important. You know, to try to engage members more and see what other things they wanted to do.
- What were some of the responsibilities you had as D&I director?
It was a pretty broad position, which was kind of cool. Probably the most straightforward and obvious aspect was getting a better idea of where members were and how we could serve them. One of the ways we did that this year when I came on was through membership surveys. I worked with the Vice President, Emma to write up the surveys and gather responses to get an idea of members’ preferences.
Some of the other responsibilities I had were planning our service event, which we had this semester, which was new and it was really fun to figure out which philanthropies we’d be working with and actually executing that. And my most recent project was to coordinate a high school visit. So I and Kabira got to go to a regional high school to discuss the field of public relations with those students. And that was something new we started this year too. I was also responsible for certain chapter meetings that brought the conversation of diversity and inclusion to the chapter. Last semester, I brought someone from ColorComm, which is a network of minority female communications professionals and she came to discuss why diversity and inclusion is so important to the PR field. This semester, I brought Professor Melillo to discuss ethics and law in PR.
- What were some of the bigger challenges of the position?
I would say that the broadness of it could be a challenge, because everything I just listed I really enjoyed doing. But I think at the same time, focusing so much on one type of thing could kind of divert my focus from other things. So sometimes all of the outside events I had to organize took away my attention from chapter members. I wish I could have done a little more outside of the surveys.
- What was your favorite thing about being D&I Director and what was the most rewarding?
When I became D&I director, I decided I’d really make an extra effort to engage with members more than I had been already. As D&I director, it was really important that I’d make people feel comfortable around me and I needed to kind of get out of my own shell to communicate with members. And I think just having that attitude at chapter meetings has been rewarding because it reminded me of how I first joined, and how the EBoard was so welcoming and so I wanted to do that for the members.
It was my job to make sure members feel included and make sure we’re celebrating all they had to bring. So I tried to do that a lot during meetings. I’d ask members what they were interested in and make sure all of their questions were answered.
On the other side, for the chapter events I’d planned, it was really awarding to know that those events helped the chapter accomplish some of the goals we needed to complete in order to get star chapter awards. Knowing I helped the chapter qualify for that award and potentially get recognized was really rewarding.
- What does AU PRSSA get right with diversity and inclusion and what could it improve on?
I honestly think our chapter does a great job emphasizing that you don’t have to be in a specific degree program. We often recruited in other schools outside of SOC and in our recruiting we really emphasized that you don’t have to be this cookie cutter type of student to join PRSSA. I hear all the time how people are impressed with the diversity of schools in PRSSA so we’ve really been good at that, which is important because we want people to feel like they can relate to PR.
In terms of improvement, I think we could go even further with outside of SOC recruitment. It might be worth recruiting in SIS and CAS classes. Down the road, that would be something to consider. Rosie and I (membership director) have talked about how the whole philosophy of D&I has really been engrained in PRSSA as a chapter but the one thing we could also continue to work on is getting a higher member turnout at meetings and really making sure there’s no barrier between EBoard and members. That’s really where the inclusion part comes in. I think in the future the EBoard should make sure to check in on members even more to make them feel included.
- What type of skills did you build from this position?
Definitely event planning. Whether it was the service event, the high school visit, or speaker events. I learned all that goes into event planning. I don’t know if you could call professional correspondence a skill, but I definitely learned that as well, through reaching out to speakers and professors in person and over email and building relationships with them. So really it was a networking skill and it’s made me more confident in reaching out to professionals.
Also just leadership. Prior to this year, I hadn’t really had any leadership experience and this was the first role I secured in such a big organization and I got to bring up my ideas and carry them out.
- How did you balance this position with your other commitments?
It was not easy, I’ll admit that. I had this position and I’m on another EBoard. Balancing those, schoolwork and applying to internships for the summer was a lot. I got to a point where I started making lists every week. It’s so much easier to remember to do things when you keep a checklist, so I’d look at all the things I had to do and just prioritize my tasks.
You know, sometimes with positions like these, there comes a sacrifice. So some nights I had to stay up later, or you know prioritize one thing over another. As busy as this year was, and despite how much I had to balance, I really enjoyed it. So even though I sometimes had to make a sacrifice, I still go into the summer happy with everything I did.
- What is your favorite PRSSA memory?
I’d have to say conference. It was just such an experience for me. That was my favorite thing but there are so many other great things that have happened in PRSSA and things we’ve done as an EBoard but conference was just, it was so new. I’d never been to Indiana. And believe it or not, I’d actually never flown without family before that trip, so that was kind of a big deal and a new sign of independence for me. It was also still relatively early in the year so it was a chance to get to know everyone on the EBoard a little bit better and we got closer as an EBoard through that trip, it kind of broke the professional/social line and brought us closer as friends and made the upcoming year even more exciting.
- What advice do you have for the next person who will take on your position?
I would say to be confident in your ideas. It’s still a very new position – whoever takes over will only be the third person to hold it, so there’s a lot of room for new things. In my term I got to do a lot of things David (previous D&I director) hadn’t done, and the person after me can do a ton of things I didn’t do. So it’s definitely up to the next person to take that initiative. I’d just say that when you have a position like this that doesn’t have a lot of structure, it’s easy to feel discouraged or feel like you shouldn’t think outside the box since everyone else already seems to know what they’re doing, and it definitely took me awhile to get comfortable with that. So I’d definitely encourage the next person to be confident, to share ideas. The reason this position was created was because the chapter wanted to bring in new ideas and to become more inclusive, so definitely feel confident to have ideas, share them, and execute them.